Hidden from small

A Return to China: The Orchestra Marks the Year of the Sheep with Musical Friends

February 03, 2015

What better way to cap off a year of in-depth cultural exchange than with a weeklong residency in China’s Pearl River Delta region. Starting on Tuesday, February 3, members of The Philadelphia Orchestra join in a series of events in Macao, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Focused on people-to-people exchange, the 2015 residency features master classes, pop-up concerts, community events, and a first-of-its-kind collaboration concert among members of the Philadelphia, Macao, and Shenzhen orchestra, performing at the Venetian Macao’s Venetian Theatre.

“We are thrilled to come back to China this month for our week of shared music-making and community engagement,” said Craig Hamilton, vice president for global initiatives and government relations of The Philadelphia Orchestra. “We are honored to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year by bringing back our music and our passion to our partners and friends in China.”

The Venetian Theatre concert (on February 4) will be conducted by Lio Kuokman, the Macao-born assistant conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra. It features a unique performance of Ode to Humanity, a symphonic poem featuring over 100 choristers. It pays tribute to 2,000 years of Confucianism and expresses the core values of Chinese human civilization through music.

“Being part of The Philadelphia Orchestra has been my professional dream since I first heard them perform in Hong Kong as a child,” says Lio. “To now lead these musicians back to South China as part of the Orchestra’s innovative cultural exchange is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The master classes will feature Tony Prisk (trumpet), Chris Deviney (principal percussion), Alex Veltman (cello), and Juliette Kang (violin). “Our musicians are extremely excited to return to China for a fifth consecutive year to continue and expand upon our musical collaborations with Chinese musicians, as well as a variety of activities that bring our music into the community,” says Kang, our first associate concertmaster.

Another highlight: lectures about China past and present by Ambassador Nicholas Platt, the remarkable diplomat who facilitated the Orchestra’s historic 1973 tour of China. (Amazingly, six of the musicians who traveled to China on that visit are still playing in in the Orchestra today.)

From a 1940 benefit for Chinese hospital relief, to the 1973 breakthrough and several subsequent tours of China, to the strategic partnership behind the Pearl River Residency week, it’s clear the Orchestra feels an incredible kinship with China. (And the feeling is mutual; whenever they tour there, the players are treated like rock stars!)

Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore sums it all up: “When The Philadelphia Orchestra visits China, we witness firsthand how music can transcend cultural boundaries and touch people wherever they live. It is a privilege to share our music, and make music, with citizens and musicians across China.”